The strangest headline I’ve seen in relation to Suarez has to be:
Bruce Springsteen on Luis Suarez: 'Biting has no place in sports'
All the World Cup means to me is that the streets suddenly become silent and I can enjoy an evening with the windows open. I don’t understand the hysteria and I know there’s nothing to be done about it – the urge to take sides and pour all the passion a beating heart can muster into a game is too primitive and hard wired, and there are worse ways of blowing off steam. But the Suarez hoo haa has been so big that it’s reached even me.
I’ve heard other psychs discussing why and how and what Suarez can do to get help and frankly they all end up as flabbergasted as everyone else. No, an adult man biting other adult men is not an oral fixation. No, he does not have a split personality, whatever that may be. He may well have been humiliated as a child but which of us has not?
Suarez is not losing control, he is absolutely in control. He expertly measures the distance between him and the person he intends to assault then makes a series of highly calculated moves in order to get his teeth around a part of them, and then he assaults them. He doesn’t run around biting people randomly, he chooses someone to assault and then he assaults them. If a man bites you while you’re waiting for a bus you call the police, the man is arrested, gets a psychiatric evaluation and a criminal record. I’m not sure why this isn’t the case with Suarez, who has done this 3 times now.
Perhaps that’s where the answer lies. He’s got away with it 3 times and he’s being rewarded for it. He’s trending on twitter, he’s in all the media, he’s getting a massive amount of attention, so much so that it’s entered my football-free world where Gary Lineker is a nice man who likes crisps. Bruce Springsteen is talking about him. It’s a safe bet that more than one ad agency is swiftly creating a commercial for Suarez to sell something with ‘bite’ in it. * Biting is his trademark, he is rewarded for biting.
Apparently he’s had ‘anger management’ for his previous assaults. It hasn’t worked. For it to work the person going to anger management therapy has want to stop being angry. He has to feel shame, humiliation and a pressing desire to stop acting out. Why on earth would Suarez feel that? He’s getting loads of attention and being paid for it.
Why hasn’t he spent at least a night in a cell? You would, if you bit someone in the street. If the police were able to curb their excitement at having a famous footballer in their charge and treat Suarez as they would a vagrant who had assaulted someone (or like Mr Tribble up there in the picture who was held for rather longer without bail.) it might bring him down to earth with a bang and he might start taking himself seriously. The chances of that are infinitesimal.
Instead, he’ll still be paid huge amounts of money that he can spend while he’s banned, and the attention won’t stop and he’ll be handled with the kid gloves that rich, famous people get. He’ll have therapy and it won’t work though it may educate him in the language of contrition. In the long run he may even stop biting but he won’t stop being violent in other ways, because there are no meaningful consequences for his violence.
If you place bets, put one on Suarez biting someone again within 12 months. There was 28 months between his first and second assaults, 15 months between his second and third. It’s his trademark; people are waiting for him to do it again. Why would he stop?
* Specsavers, McDonalds, Nandos and Snickers got there within 4 hours.
A few evenings ago I was with a group of business managers who wanted to talk about how domestic violence affects their work. I spoke with any number of individuals and every single one of them said something along the lines of “It’s such a shame that you have to frame the subject around profits and losses. Shareholders don’t care about human suffering, and the moral aspect of people you know being assaulted has become redundant. In this room it’s only you and I who think about anything beyond money.”
People said they felt isolated, paralysed, disgusted with their employers and themselves. I was able to say, “You’re not as alone as you think. I’ve had this conversation with lots of other people in your situation,” and was pleased to see their surprise, but then a veil of caution came down and the conversation took a turn towards inaction.
Being responsible for other people’s wellbeing is a big deal. Many professionals enjoy the human contact and problem solving that HR and line management can bring, particularly when good polices and attitudes exist to support and contain that helping instinct. But austerity has brought with it cynicism, hopelessness, fear and a disturbing insularity. Increasingly we – particularly people in their late teens and twenties - are looking for someone to blame, whether that’s recent immigrants, asylum seekers or people who are unemployed, basically anyone that we perceive is costing us money. Even if it’s not our money at all.
A person who is assaulted by a stranger gets a huge amount of support compared to someone who has to take time off work because their partner has attacked them. We blame them for staying. We blame them for putting up with it. We blame them for leaving and depriving the kids of their father. We blame them for making us take up the slack when they can’t work. We blame them for not coming out with us after work. We blame them for being hospitalised. We ask how they contributed to their own death.
Feeling powerless and hopeless at work is debilitating: sometimes you can do something about it and sometimes that’s only going to cause you grief. But if you feel strongly about something ethical at your workplace the likelihood is that you’re not alone, and if you feel it’s dubious to seek connection with peers who might feel the same there is likely to be an organisation that will support you.
Here’s CAADV, the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, with membership that includes BP, KPMG, the Corporation of London and Diageo amongst many others. They recognise the monetary loss to business of domestic violence. What really motivates them is the human cost.
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